For centuries, people have fasted to cleanse and heal their bodies, but people who decide to follow a water fast to lose weight should be aware that water fasting dangers include losing muscle, a vitamin deficiency, and even increase the risk of developing a binge eating disorder.
Why People Fast
People fast for both physical and spiritual reasons. While many health professions warn about water fasting dangers, people who believe it is beneficial are quick to point out that it has been practiced for thousands of years. The physical purpose for water fasting in most cases is detoxification.
Detoxification is the process of by which toxins stored in body fat are eliminated. In fact, fasting is key to removing these toxins from the body. This occurs when fasting initiates the burning of stored body fat for energy. This is known as ketosis. This switch in fuel source releases the stored toxins and then eliminates them from your system.
Benefits of Water Fasting
Proponents of water fasting claim that people who fast will experience the following general benefits:
- clearer skin
- decreased cravings for processed foods
- healing and repair of damaged tissue
- improved mood
- promotes colon cleaning
Along with these common benefits, proponents also recommend fasting for chronic conditions such as:
- digestive disorders
- heart disease
- high cholesterol
- low blood sugar
- mental illness
Controversy and Water Fasting Dangers
While fasting has been used for curing various illnesses since ancient times, today it is a controversial subject within the Western world. Even though Hippocrates believed that fasting allowed the body to heal itself, and Paracelsus referred to it as the physician within, those who consider water fasting unhealthy say it's not detoxification but starvation. This is the number one reason for people landing in the hospital following a fast. Other risks that raise concerns from experts are related to long or repeated fasts include:
- Vitamin deficiencies
- Muscle breakdown
- Blood-sugar problems
Water Fast Safely
Most people can fast safely, but if you decide to try it it's important to do so under your doctor's supervision. However, there are some people who should not fast including:
- Infants and young children
- People with serious disease conditions
- Pregnant women
- People with Type I diabetics
- People with insufficient kidney function
- People who experience fear about fasting
- People with a toxic levels of DDT contamination because fasting can release unsafe levels of DDT into the bloodstream during the fasting process and lead to other complications.
For those who do participate in a water fast, it is important to get plenty of rest. Strenuous exercise is a no no, but going for a walk or light stretching is fine.
Safer Detoxification Options
If your purpose for fasting is detoxification and you want to avoid water fasting dangers, there are other options that provide nutrition for the body, but still burn the stored body fat and release the toxins to be eliminated. Some of these options include:
Before You Fast
If you decide you want to fast, it's important to talk with your health care professional so they can monitor you heath before and during the fast. Before you actually begin your water fast, it is best to adjust your diet. You'll want to eat less in the days before beginning the fast, and two days out eliminate meats and dairy products. On the day before you begin your fast your diet should consist of foods that are easily digestible. This includes:
Following a water-only fast, you'll want to reintroduce these same foods, starting with pure, fresh fruit juice, followed by whole fruit, vegetables and soup.